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Bavaria Wants More Flexibility in European Car Pollution Rules

European automakers shouldn't count on special treatment from the EU, Industry Commissioner Verheugen said. But one German state has demanded climate protection rules be watered down to protect carmakers -- and jobs.

A car spewing exhaust

Protecting the environment can't come before protecting jobs, Bavaria's premier said

The European Union's planned support package for the 27-member bloc's industrial sector would not provide automakers with special subsidies, Guenther Verheugen, the bloc's industry commissioner, said in an interview on Sunday, Nov. 23.

"We have a single industrial policy in Europe and it has clearly left behind the use of subsidies," he told German broadcaster NDR. "And there won't be a reoccurrence of the subsidy mentality of the 80s."

Verheugen added that the only industry rescue package considered by the EU was one involving the expansion of credit lines provided by the European Investment Bank. Such new loans would help carmakers adopt climate-friendly technology and produce cleaner cars.

"The manufacturers will have to make major investments to meet the guidelines set by politicians in regards to lower consumption and lower pollution cars," he said.

The European Union has called on European automakers to reduce carbon dioxide exhaust levels in their fleets down from an average of 160 g/km to 130 g/km by 2012.

Bavaria wants slacker rules

Horst Seehofer

Seehofer wants penalties eliminated for carmakers who don't meet EU limits

But it's the climate protection guidelines that Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer said need to be reexamined in the face of the ongoing economic crisis.

"The EU's CO2 reduction goals have to be formed in a way that no jobs are put in danger," the ruling Bavarian coalition, made up of Seehofer's Christian Social Union and the free-market liberal FDP, wrote in an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday.

Home to giant German automakers including BMW and Audi, Bavaria's Seehofer said the automobile climate restrictions needed to be lowered in smaller steps.

"The automobile industry needs more room to maneuver," he told the mass-market weekly Bild am Sonntag. "And the disastrous financial penalties need to be eliminated. What good are millions of euros in penalties if it means all the jobs are eliminated?"

The European Commission is to present an economic stimulus program on Wednesday, worth 130 billion euros ($162 billion) according to the German government.

"Some are arguing that, given the very difficult economic situation, we can no longer afford our climate change and energy package," the chief of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said in Lisbon on Friday. "They could not be more wrong ... The consequences of ignoring the risks of climate change will be even greater than the consequences of ignoring risks from the financial sector."

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